The Berserk manga is HARD AF and controversial, but here’s why the haters are wrong!

An image of Guts from the Berserk manga.
Guts has been through hell and back, and it shows! Pic credit: Dark Horse Manga/Hakusensha

Kentaro Miura’s Berserk manga is brilliant, but it’s also insanely gruesome, violent — and quite often — unhinged. It’s a dark fantasy tale that depicts barbarity and cruelty at such an unprecedented level that it makes even the most strong-stomached readers squirm. And even people outside the Berserk fanbase have noticed, causing outrage on Twitter and other parts of the internet.

But is this outrage justified, or are there other reasons worth discussing? Let’s start by saying that Twitter, Reddit, the YouTube comments section, and other online public forums don’t usually bring out the best in people. Due to the anonymity users enjoy on these platforms and a lack of understanding of the source material, only low-level discourse and strawman arguments prevail.

Another major problem is that when large numbers of users band together against something, it even impacts those few critical thinkers and fence-sitters. When crowd psychology kicks in, it’s so overwhelming that it threatens to sway the discussion in a dangerous and unfavorable direction. That’s why we should be mindful and practice discernment around controversial topics, especially about popular franchises such as Berserk.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, what exactly did anger people about the Berserk manga? Their critiques center on graphic portrayals of male dominance and sexual violence. And while it’s true that these appear regularly throughout the manga, there’s a false assertion that these scenes are pornographic and glorify violent sexual acts. We explain in more detail below why the haters have got it wrong!

The Berserk manga depicts a dangerous and horrific world

A scene from the Berserk manga featuring Guts and Casca.
Guts and Casca have a complicated relationship that even confuses many readers of the Berserk manga. Pic credit: Dark Horse Manga/Hakusensha

Berserk’s story unfolds in the Kingdom of Midland. This is a world inspired by the Middle Ages, considered a dark period in European history by historians and scholars.

But the similarities don’t end there since Midland falls under the influence of the Holy See, a religious body anyone could mistake for the Catholic Church. Thus, this is a monotheistic, patriarchal, and stringent world, ultimately setting the tone for the series.

And while Midland enjoyed a short period of peace, it’s a land torn apart by rival empires, famine, and plagues. In a nutshell, it’s a land that only makes life difficult for its inhabitants, and only the fittest survive. And Berserk’s key characters, such as Guts, Griffith, Casca, Isidro, and Serpico, are all a byproduct of this world.

Damaged characters, terrifying consequences

Femto kissing Casca in the Berserk manga.
The controversial scene where Femto kisses an unwilling Casca. Pic credit: Dark Horse Manga/Hakusensha

The harsh circumstances of Berserk’s world have impacted its characters in several ways. Violence, including sexual violence, occurs with much regularity. And Kenta Miura managed to depict these with immense detail, to a point where they’ve triggered some readers and even non-fans that viewed manga scans online.

However, these scenes don’t glorify rape or sexual acts whatsoever. Instead, they accurately depict how dehumanizing and terrifying these acts truly are and are meant to cause discomfort among readers. Moreover, some scenes are bizarre and grotesque, which are shocking but keep in line with the dark tone of Berserk.

But this series is dark for a reason. And that’s because the characters have to deal with pain and loss regularly. So nobody comes out unscathed, and nobody ends up being quite normal. Even the main protagonist — Guts — the tough-as-nails swordsman, is not the same after witnessing the rape of his lover by Griffith (in his Femto form).

And Griffith has twisted motivations for committing such a terrible act. Partly to get even with Guts for leaving the Band of the Falcon, a mercenary group established by Griffith. And partly to cause Guts as much pain as possible and to defile his lover’s unborn child with Femto’s demonic seed. Undoubtedly, this is a horrific and humiliating ritual done by someone deeply hurt, damaged, and corrupted due to his thirst for power.

A dark fantasy epic worth exploring

Kenta Miura is no longer with us, as he passed away on May 6, 2022. This is a terrible loss for fantasy and manga fans everywhere. But he did leave us with 41 volumes of the phenomenal Berserk manga, which all fans need to check out. It isn’t an easy read, given much of its controversial content. But it delivers a brutal tale about the ongoing conflicts between good and evil in a harsh world — and does it successfully.

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